Cramp-y, moody, hungry, headaches, tender breasts, constipation, can’t stop crying… The list goes on and on.
If you’re one of those women who suffers from these symptoms month after month, I’m here to tell you: IT’S NOT NORMAL! Most of us grow up with the idea that it’s just something that happens to us, and many doctors shrug it off. The consequence is millions of women are suffering unnecessarily.
It’s true that Western medicine doesn’t have many answers or treatments. If it’s severe, they might put you on birth control to “regulate your hormones”. Unfortunately this is just a Band-Aid, and one that comes with negative side effects that aren’t discussed often enough.
Chinese medicine to the rescue!
All these PMS symptoms fall under the heading of what we call “Liver Qi Stagnation”. Fear not, it doesn’t have anything to do with your actual liver. But now that we know your diagnosis, there are plenty of natural remedies to treat it. Here is a round up of the best of them.
1. Stay Warm
Ever notice that when that cramp-y feeling comes, the only thing you want to do is curl up with a heating pad? That’s because heat increases circulation, which breaks up stagnation and soothes the Liver. So throughout the month, keep your body warm by wearing enough clothes, drinking hot tea, and avoiding cold and raw foods. Salads and ice water are not your friends! Cook your vegetables, and drink your water room temperature.
I don’t have to tell you that a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet is essential for overall health, including your hormones. But specifically, there are a few foods to focus on to help break up that stagnant Liver Qi.
The color of the Liver is green, so all (cooked) green vegetables are great. In addition, you can add some pungent, or spicy foods, such as onions, garlic, leeks, ginger, chilies, etc. to your meals. Finally, eat a few sour foods, especially fruits like lemon, lime, berries, sour peaches and grapefruit.
Plant medicine can be a great ally when used correctly. Herbs are most effective when combined into a custom formula based on your unique constellation of symptoms and constitution. With that being said, for less severe cases, there are a few herbs that, when combined, can work for many women.
Dong Quai – otherwise knows as Chinese angelica root, is a great herb for many women because it not only moves blood to get rid of stagnation, but it also gently warms and builds blood. It’s an important part of many gynecological formulas in Chinese herbalism.
Black Cohosh – yes, the “menopause” herb, black cohosh helps to regulate female hormones and relieve toxicity. It’s cooling, to counteract the more warming qualities of the dong quai.
The combination of these 2 roots together is a well known herbal formulation that helps especially with menstrual cramps.
4. Detox Your Products
How many products do you use daily or weekly to clean your home and yourself? What about makeup, perfume and scents? Unless you’ve already made the switch to all natural, non-toxic products, these supplies are leeching endocrine disruptors into your lungs and skin. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that alter hormones, and are used in artificial fragrances, cleaning products, food storage containers (including plastic water bottles) personal care products, and more. Environmental Working Group is a great online resource to find clean products of all kinds.
Because PMS (and many, MANY other issues) are caused by hormone imbalances, you could be doing a great job with diet, exercise, etc, but still be sabotaging your health. So clear out all your conventional products, and replace them with the cleanest alternatives you can afford. Many products can be cheaply DIY’ed with food from your kitchen, which is the safest option of all.
There’s nothing like a good acupuncture treatment to relieve stress, banish pain, balance hormones and calm your mind and spirit. Since PMS is cyclical, a severe case will usually take a few months to treat with acupuncture, but the results are well worth it. To find an acupuncturist, look for one that graduated from acupuncture school (not chiropractic or med school) and is licensed and certified. Your best bet will be someone who specializes in women’s health. If you’re in the Greenville area, I’d love to help.
Elizabeth Allen is an acupuncturist in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in pain management, women’s health, and psycho-emotional issues. She’s passionate about helping people feel their best and sharing her wealth of knowledge with the community. Elizabeth is the owner of AcuMed Spa, on Wade Hampton Boulevard. Appointments can be made by calling 864-451-4313, or scheduled online here.